Prime Time Spies

Victoria Kingsly pretended not to notice the many heads turning from their game tables to follow her as she strolled through Casino Royale like she owned the place. That's right, get an eyeful, boys. She thought, allowing herself a small bemused smile. You can look but you'll never touch. A few women glared at her and clutched tighter to the arms of their lovers. Their envy energized her, enticing her to add a bounce to her step as she ascended the stairs to the second floor.

She couldn't really blame them for being a little jealous. Victoria knew she was beautiful, as her light mocha complexion, rounded cheeks of medium height, and deep brown eyes made her quite the exotic looker. It always paid to look your best in her profession, where she was always trying to get people to give her what she wanted. Usually, it was up to her to manage her own appearance, but the nature of her current mission ensured that she would be given a lot more help in that department than usual. Her dark hair had been done professionally this evening by none other than Antonio Viscondi, and the curls bounced enticingly along with every curve in her body as the shimmering green Lauren Ricci evening dress he had selected for her clung provocatively to her fit, athletic frame. His services, assuming you could get an appointment with him, usually ran around two thousand dollars, but thanks to her current employer it had not cost a dime.

It was more trouble than Victoria was used to, especially since tonight's objective was so simple. Locate and remove the target. Yet, there was a lot more money riding on this job than usual. It was too bad her superiors would undoubtedly never let her keep any of it. For so many people, their job was all about how much money you could make, and most of the people she would be encountering on this mission would be in it for the money. Victoria simply enjoyed the game. She lived for the hunt, and as long as she had enough to live on and she kept getting new missions in the field, she was happy.

She chose a fifty dollar minimum bet black jack table and sat down. At least here she could both get a view of the first floor entranceway to the lofty Vegas hotel and stay further away from the incessant beeping and chiming of the slot machines and other nonsense games. Blackjack itself was a detestable game to Victoria. It took no real skill to play when the only opponent was the cards, and you could never make any big money at it unless you were an MIT genius with a system. She bought in anyway. It paid to keep the cover going until her contact found her. Besides, it gave her time to flirt and get the lay of the land.

The young man next to her was scrawny with one of those bushy hairstyles that were coming back in style. It was such an awful look. Clean-cut gentlemen who oozed confidence and could match her with a sharp wit were much more desirable. This little boy would be easy, as he was perhaps in his early twenties and very inexperienced around women like herself if he had ever been with one at all. He seemed to trip over himself getting his next bet in, as he threw sidelong glances at her cleavage.

Victoria leaned over the table more, giving him a good view while she winked at him. Toying with boys like him was a favorite pastime of hers. It was also good practice for times when she really needed to manipulate others.

"G'day there, cutie," she said playfully, not bothering to hide her slight Australian accent. Living in the US for the last seven years had only diluted it somewhat, though she could kill it completly if she chose to. "Has this been a good dealer so far?"

The kid hesitated, and he no longer made any effort to hide where he was staring. It made her want to laugh in in his face, tell him to take a picture as it would last longer, but she simply kept displaying a sweet smile.

"Y-yeah," the kid stammered at last. "well, sorta. I mean it's been up and down."

"Ah," she said, sitting up straight again. "Well maybe now that I'm here we'll all get lucky."

In his dreams, she thought.

She did not bring any luck at all. Victoria lost her first hand by busting, mostly because she just wasn't paying attention. On the second hand the dealer hit blackjack, and then more bad luck on the third hand had her wondering if she was going to be forced to go to the nickel slots and just enjoy the free drinks. But she couldn't afford to lose her wits to alcohol, especially since that was probably her contact walking through the door right at that moment.

He was dressed just as her information described he would be—Ridiculous . The suit was white and covered in rhinestones. He wore a velvety white cowboy hat and white boots. A large belt buckle gleamed so much in the casino lights that the light it reflected hurt her eyes all the way up on the second floor. To top it all off, he was wearing sunglasses indoors.

Was this guy for real? Her employer seemed to be picking the most outrageous people to pair her with these last few missions, but Victoria couldn't fault them if this man had the skills they were looking for. Fat chance, Victoria thought as she busted yet another hand. The dealer gave her a look of practiced sympathy and collected the last of her chips. I've been trained in ways that buffoon down there has never dreamed. I'll probably have to carry the whole mission myself again.

She sighed, pretending that her resignation was about losing at such a silly game, and excused herself from the table. Victoria brushed her hand on the back of the cute boy's neck as she left, just so she could enjoy watching his back stiffen and his breath catch in his throat. Then she stalked down the stairs, slowly making her way toward the "All you could eat" buffet and the restrooms.

The restrooms had an anteroom, a sound buffered hallway that one entered before making their way to the restroom designated for the appropriate sex. Her contact would be waiting for her in this quaintly furnished area, which was designated a "safe zone" by their employer, an organization that simply called itself The Agency.

Upon entering the anteroom, Victoria found her contact was alone. He had removed his hat and hung it on a rack provided along the wall. His hair was light brown and thick, and it stood on end like a patch of wild crab grass on a lawn along the part line; a result of his flamboyant hat. Upon seeing her, he grinned devilishly. He had a flattering smile, and she tried to overpower it with one of her own, but she couldn't seem to get past the mirrored Oakleys he was wearing. He slid the shades slightly forward on his nose to peer over them at her with deep brown eyes as he spoke the proper coded greeting.

"I came to see if lady luck was hanging out in the ladies room," Victoria's contact said, maintaining the boyish grin.

Oh, isn't he charming, Victoria thought at the sound of the soft deep voice. Charm could be useful, but she wasn't getting her hopes up yet. He had yet to prove that he possessed a trait much more important for this type of mission—intelligence.

Victoria gave the proper response.

"She might be here, but the royal flush won't be what you had in mind, boy."

"My sources didn't tell me you'd be so. . .hot," said her contact.

Victoria gave him a flirtatious smile. "Keep talking like that and you might just get lucky. Now, you have something for me?"

"Yes," said the man as he at last removed his shades. "But I'll be working with you on this one."

That was to be expected. Every mission for the Agency she had accomplished so far had been some sort of partnership. It always made things more interesting to be sure. The trick was to get along well and earn their trust. This was especially important since Victoria had her own agenda. Of course, in this game, everyone had their own agenda.

Pretty boy offered his hand.

"I'm Jake."

"The objective?" Victoria asked, cocking her head and gesturing toward the hat he had hung on the wall. Introductions weren't so important right now, time was of the essence. Didn't bright eyes here get that? Minus one point for intelligence.

Jake frowned slightly, but showed no indication that he had been slighted as he glanced at his untouched hand and stuffed it back in a pocket.

"Check it out for yourself," he said with a straight, businesslike face.

At least he wasn't trying to flirt anymore, thought Victoria. She promised him in her own mind that there would be plenty of time for that later – If he proved trustworthy. Even then, Victoria wasn't going to make anything easy for him. She enjoyed being chased too much.

She brushed past him much closer than was necessary, just so he might get a whiff of her light perfume, and took the hat off the rack. He strode purposefully toward the hallway's exit, without so much as another glance in her direction.

She reached into the hat and pulled off a layer of loose cloth, which hid a message. She read the message quickly. They were specific instructions written on the back of a small wallet sized photograph. The instructions asked for intelligence that needed to be gathered on the target before he was disposed of. Victoria took a small silver metallic cigarette lighter from her purse and lit the photograph with the message on fire, before tossing the burning object in the trash can.

That's when the camera was suddenly in her face. Two men came out of the restroom, one had a large T.V. camera and the other one, the sound man, had a large microphone. She'd been expecting this, as there were always cameras on her in this game. Still, it always seemed like the producers chose the most unusual times to do a personal monologue shot.

The cameraman had a blond goatee and was wearing a Yankees baseball jersey and matching ball-cap. She'd seen this one before, but hadn't gotten his name. He was easy on the eyes himself, and Victoria kind of liked being filmed by him. The man running the sound was a chubby, clumsy fellow, and he was amusing in his own way. He almost whacked her in the head while the cameraman, whatever his name was, read from a cue card he had been given.

"Uh . . . they want your thoughts on your contact, if you can trust him, what you think of this mission, you know, the usual stuff."

Victoria flipped her hair back and pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"Hmmm. Well, a girl has to keep some secrets," Victoria mused. "Even from the millions of American viewers, don't you think?"

Victoria winked at the chubby sound man, and delighted in the eager smile he gave her. It made Victoria want to laugh. Boys were so easy.

The cameraman snorted.

"Just give'em a show, Nova," he said. "And let's do it quick because you know you need to catch up with Jake."

Nova. That was her code name. To be precise, it was her alias on this show. It was an interesting name, and not an alias she would have normally chosen, but a television star needed to have something dramatic, and after eight days of playing, she'd gotten rather used to the handle. One thing was certain; her name was far more interesting than something like, "Jake". She wasn't sure how the producers let him get away with it.

All of the players in this game were using fake names, and their true identities wouldn't be revealed until a winner had been declared in the show's final episode of the season. Victoria planned on having cameras on her all the way through to that final episode. Failing a mission or getting "taken out" was not an option for her. Even though this was a game of elimination, with a big cash prize for the winner, the Central Intelligence Agency would make sure she stayed on the show as long as she needed.

Reality television had reached a whole new level with this show. "Spy Games" was now in its third season after being a smash hit for the first two. The elimination by your peers type of show was a formula that had worked ever since the granddaddy of modern reality television, "Survivor", had first aired. Spy games had evolved the idea into creating a show that mimicked the Hollywood glamour of espionage and allowed for a number of ways to be eliminated.

Becoming a contestant on the show had been far easier than she had thought, especially since she had never seen the show before. The CIA had offered up a number of agents as candidates to the show in an effort to maintain secrecy. If an agent was forced into the game without going through at least some of the normal selection process too many people working on the show would start to ask questions. The producers knew her as Harmony Mitchell, a pro jet ski racer from Florida. This would be the name released to the public at the end of the show. The selection staff for Spy Games had chosen her immediately over all the other agents, and now she was thoroughly enjoying herself.

Victoria sighed. "Alright, I'm ready."

The cameraman held up three fingers, then two, then one. The camera was rolling.

Victoria smiled her brightest smile and poured on the charm.

"Well, so far, so easy," Victoria said with a small giggle. "Like I've been saying all along these boys are going to be playing into the palm of my hand. This one's cute though, I have to admit. But he seems easy enough to handle. As for the target, well . . ."

Victoria shrugged and bent to show the camera a little cleavage. She dropped her voice to a level she considered, sultry.

"He doesn't stand a chance."

The cameraman switched off the camera and lowered it. The chubby man took a second longer to realize that they were done. He seemed to be staring at her, and he wasn't looking at her face. Victoria sighed, grabbed the hat and hurried after Jake.

She caught up with him on the Casino floor by the crap tables.

"Hey!" She called, hurrying along as fast as she could in troublesome high-heeled shoes. "You forgot your hat!"

"Oh thanks!" said Jake with a bright grin. He really did have a good smile. Victoria almost forgot her role. "Say, can I buy you a drink? It's the least I could do for you."

Victoria accepted of course. She thread her arm through his as he led her to the bar. This was a fun little game indeed.

Women were strange creatures, Carlo Benedetto thought. The modern American woman was independent, free spirited, and certainly wouldn't take kindly to the kind of treatment he was giving this one. But women were funny about money and power. This penthouse suite on one of the top floors of the mighty pyramid-shaped Luxor hotel and Casino was a testament to Carlo's power. As owner of the newest hotel in Vegas, which was still under construction a few blocks away, Carlo had a lot of it. That would have been true even if owning hotels was Carlo's only business.

A penthouse this size was window dressing to Carlo, and it was probably big enough to house three families, had a bathroom with a spa in it that you could swim laps in, and the bedroom was furnished and decorated with the finest European accessories. Of course, mirrors on the ceiling and rose-colored satin sheets were a must when you were expecting company. Women loved that kind of shit. Expensive things screamed power and security to them. The lure of a powerful man drove some of women completely mad in his experience, and influenced others to do things they never even imagined—like getting them to go down on you for instance.

Carlo bit his lip as he pressed down firmly on the back of the head of a very beautiful blond woman. He couldn't even remember her name right now, but that hardly mattered. She seemed to be having at least as much fun as he was, and she was very good at what she was doing.

"That's it baby," Carlo said with a sneer to his voice. Any talking on his part was probably extra, but he continued to list very precisely what he wanted done to him. It was better that way. Women needed to be told what to do, and this particular hottie of a woman was not able to say much at all even if she wanted to as he grabbed the sides if her head and began to make things a little more challenging for her.

She took it like a champ. He knew it couldn't be easy for her, his size was impressive after all, and he grinned as her gag reflex kicked in again and she choked. He held her there a second longer, until he could feel her begin to struggle against him in frustration.

She came up gasping for air and coughing, and her eyes watered. She had a shocked, How dare you! expression on her face. All he had to do was tell her, "You're so amazing, baby," and her look of indignation relaxed into a grin.

This one really was a beautiful specimen. She was a head shorter than him, though that was no surprise as Carlo was six foot four himself, but her completely naked body was firm and curvaceous even though she was slightly petit. She had a great ass though, and Carlo was about to have her stand up and show it to him when his penthouse phone rang.

He ignored it at first, even as little Ms. what's her name looked at him as if he should answer. But the damn thing rang seven, and then eight times, and Carlo swore in frustration. He was so close too!

"Don't move from that spot, baby," he said as he got up out of the easy chair he had been lounging in and answered the phone on the nightstand by the bed. It was that network representative.

"Hello?" Carlo said.

"Yes, is this Mr. Benedetto," said the familiar voice of the secretary, another name he couldn't remember. Carlo wondered vaguely if he might be able to persuade her to visit him later.

"Yeah!" Carlo snapped. "What is it? This isn't really a good time!"

"Really sir?" The woman said a little too smugly. "I apologize, I know you must be getting ready for your role you are going to play on the show this evening, but we needed to change the location for your appearance."

Shit! Carlo stamped his foot and mouthed the word, but did not say it. He had almost forgotten all about this little publicity stunt. His blond companion was making pouty faces at him now, and Carlo wished even more that he hadn't picked up the phone.

Carlo rubbed his hand over his shiny shaved head as he tried to remember all the details. He was supposed to let some reality TV show contestants pretend to be spies and play him for information. The producers of the show were going to use his new hotel's grand opening as some kind of backdrop for the "bad guys" to be doing their dirty work. And the winner would figure out the evil plot and save the day. The irony of it all amused Carlo greatly.

"Yeah?" Carlo prompted, still annoyed. He was losing his hard on fast. "Where is it now?"

"Outside Caesar's Palace, just across from your new hotel."

"What? " Carlo fumed. "What would I be doing out there? I thought it was going to be here in the Luxor. High stakes gambling or something."

"What is it, Carlo?" whined the buxom blond. "Who is that?"

Carlo held up a pacifying finger. "Just a minute, baby."

The woman on the line was unapologetic. "Last minute press conference and photo-op for the media. Then you're going to kick off the Chinese New Year festivities at Caesar's. Our "Evil organization" will do a fake hit. The producers decided it was time to shake things up a bit."

"Alright, alright fine, sweet cakes," Carlo said, as he glanced at the bimbo crawling seductively toward him. "I just need an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to get ready and arrange a limo."

"One's already been arranged, sir."

"Of course!" coughed Carlo as the woman crawled forward again and began teasing him in very unfair ways. "I won't be long! Maybe after this I can meet the hottie who this pretty voice belongs to?"

"See you there, sir." The female voice said, ignoring his invitation. Then the woman hung up.

Carlo hung up the phone. Bitch. Her loss.

He smiled wickedly down at the woman servicing him. No, thought Carlo, this wouldn't take long at all.

Grace Goodson sighed and took off her headset phone, tossing it aside on the small desk in the operating room. She rubbed her temples and put her elbows on the desk. She caught a shadowy reflection of her face in the computer monitor. Her brown eyes were bloodshot, her auburn curls hung in disarray, a result of wearing the wire-frame headset too long.

"You alright?" A voice next to her asked.

She glanced up at the young man next to her, Steve. He was new to the show to this season. It was all still very new and exciting to him. Even on a ten hour shift. Cameras for a reality show like this were going almost non-stop, and the pretend spy-work often went very late into the night. It began to wear on a body after three years of doing the show. But Steve didn't know that yet, and he didn't have to talk to high-roller jerks like Carlo Benedetto.

"I'm fine, Steve, thanks." Grace said. "I just need another cup of coffee."

"Are you sure?" asked the rookie. "I can handle things for a while, till we get to tonight's big event."

"I'm sure," Grace said a little more curtly than she had meant to. She scrolled through twelve different camera views, jamming her finger on the button with angry thrusts each time a view came up and she decided the shot was where it needed to be.

That man! Grace thought. Benedetto. The audacity he had to call her "sweet cakes" and then ask to meet her. The man had deserved to be slapped, at the very least. It was men like him that thought they could just do anything they wanted to anybody. The whole world was at their beck-and-call, his thousands of employees, television show executives, politicians, and even women as an entire sex were just pawns and playthings to men like him. Grace tried to concentrate back on monitoring the game. Fantasizing about all the different Benedetto's she'd like to give a kick in the nuts to right now would have to wait.

The game had started with sixteen "spies" this time, as opposed to the twelve contestants of the previous two seasons. There were still fourteen of them left in this early point in the game, and the beginning of the show was always more difficult for her. It got easier once the number of contestants dropped to about eight or less, but that wasn't going to be for a long while yet. Seven women and seven men were left. The numbers made things perfect for the setup of this next mission.

Each player would covertly meet a new contact, as was done on nearly every mission in the show. But this time things would get interesting as each man was paired with a woman, and the mission called for the pair to go undercover as engaged couples looking to get hitched in Vegas. It was one of Grace's favorite new set-ups this season. It promised to cause all sorts of sexy antics, provided Mr. Benedetto played along like he was supposed to. He was clearly more interested in his own sexual games, judging from the voice he had heard in the background during her phone call with him. Grace shook her head and blew out a puff of air. Thinking about it was just getting her angry again.

Grace watched the three large high definition displays dominating the room carefully for a moment and checked the progress of the twelve active camera crews and twenty strategically located cameras. She routed the four most active cameras to her personal screen, and then checked the security camera feeds of the three Vegas hotels that had granted the network special access to make sure she wasn't missing anything.

Four pairs of spies had already made contact, and were establishing their cover. This put them in the lead. The trick for each mission was to not only solve it but be the first to do it. These were the ones she wanted to focus on right now. There was Blade and Tora stationed in the Bellagio, Rain and Butch working the Four Seasons Hotel, and Jake and Nova staking out Casino Royal and Hotel. Grace knew that the first of these four to figure out that their target was really making an unscheduled stop at Caesar's palace, instead of playing in a high stakes game at the Luxor would probably win this round. Of course, the producers controlled the rules, and Grace was the one with the cameras. Sometimes it was all about chemistry and looking good. Grace took one look at the camera's following Jake and Nova, and recognized chemistry. Yes, those two were going to make for some good television indeed.